As you have probably heard, the Newcastle United U17 team yesterday reached the semi-finals of the Milk Cup. In this article, we will attempt to inform you what the prestigious youth tournament is all about, its history and how significant an achievement it is for us to reach this far.
The Milk Cup was founded in 1983 by Jim Weir, Victor Leonard, George Logan and Bertie Peacock, one of the most famous football players from the region, with sixteen teams participating at an Under 16 level. Motherwell were the first winners of the youth tournament.
The tournament extended in 1985 when an extra age group, the Under 14 (Junior) section was introduced and again the first champions were from Scotland, as Rangers, won the Milk Cup at that age level.
The competition at both levels has grown in size and stature over the years, with teams increasingly travelling from all continents to compete. The Under 19 (Elite) section was introduced in 1995 with the Welsh finishing the tournament as winners.
Many current international footballers have taken part in the Milk Cup, players such as Charlie Davies (USA international), Jonathan Spector, Paul Scholes, and Wayne Rooney have all competed at some level in the Milk Cup. In the 2002 FIFA World Cup there were 30 Milk Cup veterans playing. Former Toon players to take part include Nicky Butt, Damien Duff and Michael Chopra.
One of the key parts to the Milk Cup is the inclusion of six representative teams from each county of Northern Ireland – Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Derry and Tyrone.
This system allows young players from across the province to compete against some of the best in the world at their age group.
The teams compete against each other in the group stages, playing three matches each, all randomly decided by a draw.
After all of the group matches, the teams, according to where they finished, qualify for different trophies. The Top 4 teams qualify for the Milk Cup Trophy, the next four qualify for the Globe trophy. Those finishing from 9th to 12th compete for the Vase, 13th to 16th for the Bowl, and the final four teams for the Plate.
During the tournament’s early years, Newcastle United were rather successful, winning the U16 section in 1985 (three years after its formation), again in 1989 and finishing second in 1986.
Since then, the club haven’t performed as well. However, this year they have reached the semi-finals against Bolton Wanderers, and are set to compete for a place in the final tonight. Elsewhere, Desportivo Brasil will face Cherry Orchard in the other semi-final.
After winning all three of their group-stage matches, (4-0 vs Fermanagh, 6-0 vs Pachuca, 3-1 vs CSKA Moscow), the club are doing fantastically well and doesn’t look like being stopped.
England U17 international, Adam Campbell, is the club’s top performer so far, with 5 goals in 3 games.
If you would like to watch the academy this evening, BBC2 Northern Ireland (Sky Channel 972) will provide coverage of Thursday’s three finals (Elite, Premier and Junior) from 7pm.
Let’s hope we can continue to progress and make history.